STANFORD (AP) — After rushing for more than 2,000 yards and finishing as the Heisman Trophy runner-up as a junior, Bryce Love easily could have decided to enter the NFL draft.
Instead of getting ready for that big show next week, Love chose to stay at Stanford for his senior season in hopes of completing some unfinished business.
“I wanted to graduate and I wanted to come back and win games for the university and compete with my teammates for one more year,” he said Thursday. “Obviously going to the NFL is a dream of mine and something I’m excited to do and lord willing will have the opportunity to do next year. I just felt like I had so much more to do at Stanford.”
Love accomplished quite a bit last year after spending his first two years as Christian McCaffrey’s understudy. Love burst on the scene by rushing for 564 yards in back-to-back wins over UCLA and Arizona State at the end of September. He kept adding to those numbers and led all Power 5 running backs in yards rushing (2,118), yards per carry (8.1) and 100-yard games (12), and also set an FBS record with 13 runs of at least 50 yards.
With his breathtaking speed, Love was a threat to score nearly every time he touched the ball and also had the power to break tackles, ranking among the leaders in yards after contact.
About the only element missing from his game was work as a receiver. He caught just six passes for 33 yards all season but hopes to be a more versatile threat this year, which should only improve his draft stock.
“Not necessarily to showcase for teams or anything like that but just to open up different possibilities for the offense,” he said. “Being able to show that versatility and make defenses have to respect that and make it harder for them and by doing that opens up different aspects of the game for other people.”
Love is just the third Heisman runner-up to return the following season over the past nine years, joining fellow Stanford stars Andrew Luck and Christian McCaffrey.
Luck followed that 2010 second-place finish to Cam Newton by finishing second once again his college final season to Robert Griffin III, one of five runner-up finishes for the Heisman at Stanford since 2009.
McCaffrey followed up a record-setting 2015 season that saw him narrowly lose the Heisman to Alabama running back Derrick Henry with another stellar campaign that wasn’t quite as productive and led to a ninth-place finish in the Heisman.
Love might need even more prolific numbers this year to win the Heisman.
“I don’t really pay attention to anything like that,” he said. “Last year, my goal was to focus on being the best version of myself for my teammates and trying to make the team the best version of the team it can be.”
After getting heavy use last year even when he was slowed late in the season by an ankle injury, Love took it a little easier during spring practice, which ended last weekend for the Cardinal.
Love didn’t take part in contact drills as coach David Shaw wanted to keep him fresh and get a closer look at other backs. Love spent his time getting into even better shape and working on the details that will make him even more dangerous this season.
“Every day I wanted to find something small to get better at or something small to learn or pick up,” he said. “That’s one of my big things this year.”
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